After crossing the border, I first came to Konya (a city placed in central part of Turkey) and I worked a couple of months there. I was able to find irregular jobs in some companies. By the time, some of my friends were working in Istanbul and they told me that Istanbul is a city of commerce having lots of companies and job opportunities. Upon their advisory, I left Konya for Istanbul. […] I want to stay in Istanbul because I don’t want to be unemployed. […] I was able to work in another city but Istanbul provided me a regular income which I could share with my family. This is the reason why I see Istanbul as per my homeland. I am planning to stay more here. […] I feel quite like an Istanbulite. I am used to living in Istanbul and it is such a beautiful city. I am now used to its people. I got used to the people at workplace. Istanbul has many beauties. In comparison with other cities, Istanbul is more beautiful. […] I am living in Esenyurt (located in European side, it doesn’t have adjacent coastal zone with Marmara). But I went to Kadıköy, to Gürpınar, to the coasts of Büyükçekmece before pandemics. We used to do barbecue with friends. Additionally, my paternal and maternal uncles are both living in Istanbul. I visit them as well. […] I prefer the district where I go to work. I got used to that place because I have a lot of friends around. I feel comfortable surrounded by friends there. […] I have my Afghan friends living in Esenyurt. Additionally, I have Turkish friends as well. With Turkish friends, we tend to speak Turkish little by little so that we can hang around together.
Nacibullah left Afghanistan as a 16-year-old in 2018 without his family due to existential economic hardship and the war. After living in Konya for a short time, he decided to live in Istanbul because of the numerous job opportunities. In the meantime, Nacibullah, like many other Afghan and other migrants in Turkey, works in an irregular job with physically hard work, low pay and discrimination against non-Turkish employees, in his case in the car industry. The fact that he came to Turkey irregularly and lives there without papers and residence status leads not only to a precarious employment situation, but also to difficulties in finding housing, no protection against discrimination and restrictions on Nacibullah’s freedom of movement. Like Nacibullah, many other forced migrants from Afghanistan lead a precarious, shadowy existence in Istanbul. They often remain out of sight of civil society and organisational support structures, partly because of the fear of deportation or other legal problems due to their irregular stay.
For many forced migrants in Turkey, it is difficult to register and thus, for example, to get a work permit despite the theoretically existing legal framework. Esin B., a lawyer, spoke about this in an interview with the We Refugees Archive.
In this interview excerpt, he explains why he chose to live in Istanbul and now feels at home in the city. The decisive factor is that he finds work in Istanbul and has a secure income. On the other hand, the city has become familiar to him and he has found friends there.
This interview was conducted by Elif Yenigun for the We Refugees Archive in April 2021. It took place online, in Farsi and Turkish.
Translation into English: Elif Yenigun
Translation from English to German © Minor